It is Mediterranean diet time around here. It is true that the weather feels fallish, the calendar just marked the equinox and, at the supermarket, the keepers such as winter squash still ripening in my garden, and which I won’t eat until Thanksgiving, are now on display. Meanwhile, the garden, which has the upper hand around here, is dealing corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and more summer squash — yes, zucchini. I have a ton of parsley and basil and recently pulled garlic.
This weekend, we hosted company after the Common Ground Fair and enjoyed a dinner of moussaka — a Greek-style dish of newly-harvested eggplant slices layered with ground lamb and fresh tomato sauce, topped with bechamel sauce and baked. That was preceded by slices of cucumber, sparingly dabbed with sour cream, topped with smoked mussels and decorated flavorfully with cilantro, dill or borage flowers. I put a bowl of tzatziki next to it, another Greek dish.
Tzatziki, pronounced by Yankees roughly as “sti-zaht-zee’-kee,” calls for cucumber, garlic, mint and parsley, all abundant at present in my garden. You can use it as a dip for pita chips or vegetables, or as a salad with lettuce or cold side dish, as we did with the moussaka dinner. The good news is that it is very low in fat and very high in flavor. I always use more cucumber than the original recipe called for, and I squeeze out a little of the excess liquid they shed. I also drain the no-fat yogurt in a sieve for about an hour until it is as thick as Greek yogurt. That way, the naturally watery cucumbers don’t make the whole thing too drippy.
The garlic is pronounced in this, and if you don’t want garlic making too strong a statement, then use a little less. I didn’t have white wine vinegar, so I substituted rice vinegar, but cider vinegar would be fine, too. Just don’t use a dark one like red wine or balsamic vinegar, because it will look homely mixed into the yogurt.
Makes three to four cups
2 cups thick yogurt
1 cucumber (or more to taste) grated, drained
2 cloves of garlic pureed
3-4 sprigs of parsley leaves, minced
1 sprig of mint leaves, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
Blend all together and let rest in the fridge for a few hours before eating it. Improves overnight.
P.S. If you are on or near Deer Isle around 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, or live up around Blue Hill, Sedgewick, and all, consider stopping by the Deer Isle Stonington Historical Society, at 416 Sunset Road, Route 15A. I will be talking about home cooking in Maine (where it is alive and well) and signing my new book “Maine Home Cooking.” I would be thrilled to see you.
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